The University of Tennessee men's tennis team has entered a state of dominance.
This team is so dominant right now, the Vols probably could have won the SEC championship match playing from the restroom of the Varsity Tennis Center in Knoxville, and they almost did.
While I was taking a restroom break during the 4-1 win over Auburn Sunday afternoon for the SEC title, senior Pete Handoyo, out of breath and sweaty, jogged into the restroom during his singles match.
"Nice playing Pete," a fan said to Handoyo.
"Thanks," he managed to get out in between gasps.
He then jogged back out, pounced down the stairs to his court and quickly finished off his prey in the second set, picking up Tennessee's third point of the match.
He then shook hands with opponent, Andy Colombo, and with the referee, turned to the video camera that was following him and gave his trademark clinched fist. He quickly packed up his bag and took his seat in the stands.
He didn't celebrate. He didn't jump up and down with uncontrollable glee. He just sat down and took a swig from his green Gatorade squeeze bottle.
"The match wasn't over yet," he said. "Anything could have happened."
Handoyo was also less than ecstatic after the match, because he knows his team is far from done this season.
The Vols finally showed their emotion when senior Adam Carey clinched the match, spiked his racket on the court and was picked up by a jubilant Wade Orr, who had taken a breather from his own match to watch his teammate.
It was nothing but smiles from that point on, but this team knows it has accomplished one of its goals. The NCAA tournament is only three weeks away, and Tennessee is probably the most dangerous team in the country.
It hasn't been that way all season though. The Vols struggled at times in the regular season, but this is a different Tennessee team, and according to coach Michael Fancutt, the world will see a different one once the next tournament starts.
"We'll be better in the NCAA tournament than we are now," Fancutt said.
Throughout the match Sunday, Fancutt wore a beige ballcap with the "T" logo and the words "2000 SEC Champions" printed on the front. He's looking forward to getting a new cap.
"This one's 2000," he said. "I need one that says 2002."
He will wear his new hat with pride, as proud as he is of the team he built when he first came to coach at Tennessee five years ago. However, the team won't be happy to just wear that one hat.
As confident as they were, the 10 members of Fancutt's team seemed to be wearing those hats before the match was even over.
They knew they were going to win, and Fancutt credits that to his talented senior class, which was the first class he recruited at Tennessee.
"I think this is the best team we've ever had here, because of the depth of the seniors," he said.
Those seniors were absolutely magnificent all weekend, as Tennessee slammed Florida, upset Georgia and rolled over Auburn.
Carey clinched all three matches for the Vols. Senior Andy Crews stepped up with freshman Mark Dietrich and clinched doubles points against Georgia and Auburn. Handoyo didn't lose a match all weekend.
It's been a season for the seniors to remember, but there are still memories to be made.
"We want that NCAA ring," Handoyo said. "That's the one we want more."
Vols showcase dominance
Published: Mon Apr 22, 2002 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 04:16 p.m.